The Ledes

Monday, May 4, 2015.

New York Times: "Two gunmen were killed after they opened fire Sunday evening outside an event hosted by an anti-Islam group in Garland, Tex., featuring cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad, local officials said. According to the authorities, the two assailants shot a security guard and were, in turn, shot and killed by police officers. Officials did not name the gunmen or assign a motive for the attack. A spokeswoman for the F.B.I. in Dallas said the agency was providing investigative and bomb technician assistance to the Garland police." ...

     ... CW: Expect Fox "News" to handle this in their usual professional manner.

The Wires

Public Service Announcement

Reuters: "Scientists believe they may have found a new weapon in the fight against Alzheimer’s disease – not in the form of a drug but in focused beams of ultrasound. While the approach has only been tested in mice, researchers said on Wednesday it proved surprisingly good at clearing tangles of plaques linked to Alzheimer’s in the animals’ brains and improving their memory, as measured by tests such as navigating a maze."

White House Live Video
May 4

2:35 pm ET: President Obama speaks at an event at Lehman College in New York City launching the My Brothers' Keeper Alliance

Go to


Washington Post: Tesla plans to market a home battery system that draws power from solar panels or the power grid to use during outages. It holds up to 10 kw-hours, about 1/3 of what it takes to power an average home for a day. Tesla plans to make the system avalable by the end of this summer.

Conan O'Brien in Entertainment Weekly: "Not one single writer/performer in the last 35 years has had Dave [Letterman]’s seismic impact on comedy.... In today’s’ world of 30 late night programs, it’s tempting now to take Dave for granted. Do not. Dave was a true revolution.... Like all revolutions, it was such a seismic shift that it was disorienting and a bit messy at first, and it has taken us time to realize the sheer magnitude of the shift."

White House: "For a new state china service, First Lady Michelle Obama wanted it to have modern elements, but also for it to be practical, in the sense that it would be complementary to the preceding historic state services. The Obama State China Service consists of eleven-piece place settings for 320":

Timothy Simon of "Veep" gets ready to attend the White House Correspondents Dinner, which is Saturday, April 25:

... Cecily Strong of “Saturday Night Live will headline the event.

MOOCS! Washington Post: For $45, anyone can become a freshman at Arizona State University. "Students can take classes online for a fee, then decide whether to pay reduced tuition for the credits."

The Sex Life of David Brooks is apparently intensely interesting to Villagers who do not participate in it.

Washington Post: "Gaioz Nigalidze’s rise through the ranks of professional chess began in 2007, the year the first iPhone was released. In hindsight, the timing might not be coincidental." During a competition in Dubai, the Georgian grandmaster allegedly hid an iPhone in the bathroom, then consulted a chess app during play.

CBS News: "'Face the Nation' Host Bob Schieffer announced Sunday that CBS News political director John Dickerson will become the new host of 'Face the Nation' this summer when he retires." CW: So "Face the Nation" is going to become even worse. Follows the well-established pattern of Sunday morning "news" shows.

New York Times: "Bob Schieffer, a television anchor who has worked at CBS for nearly half a century and interviewed every sitting president since Richard Nixon, announced Wednesday night that he was retiring this summer. Mr. Schieffer, 78, made the announcement while giving an address at Texas Christian University, his alma mater." CW: This will be a great disappointment to Charles Pierce, as regular readers of Pierce's posts will recognize.

I believe we are going to have strong indications of life beyond Earth in the next decade and definitive evidence in the next 10 to 20 years.... We know where to look, we know how to look, and in most cases we have the technology.... We are not talking about little green men, Stofan said. "We are talking about little microbes. -- Ellen Stofan, chief scientist for NASA

It's definitely not an if, it's a when. -- Jeffery Newmark of NASA

... The L.A. Times story, from which the above citations come, is fascinating.

Washington Post: "The quote on the stamp originated with [Joan Walsh] Anglund.... 'Yes, that’s my quote,' Anglund said Monday night from her Connecticut home. It appears on page 15 of her book of poems 'A Cup of Sun,' published in 1967. Only the pronouns and punctuation are changed, from 'he' in Anglund’s original to 'it' on the stamp." CW: These are forever stamps. Maybe you should rush to the Post Office & buy a pane.

Guardian: "Allegations that a 17-year-old was forced to have sex with Britain’s Prince Andrew, which prompted a crisis at Buckingham Palace earlier this year, have been removed from a federal court case by a judge in the US. Judge Kenneth Marra ordered Virginia Roberts’s accusations about Andrew, the Duke of York, to be struck from the record and denied her attempt to join a lawsuit against Jeffrey Epstein, a friend of the prince and a convicted sex offender. 'At this juncture in the proceedings, these lurid details are unnecessary,' Marra wrote in his order, issued at the US district court in southern Florida on Tuesday morning.... Andrew and Buckingham Palace vehemently deny Roberts’s allegations."

Washington Monthly: "Today [April 7] marks the centennial of Billie Holliday’s birth."

Wild Things Interrupt President Obama's reading of "Where the Wild Things Are" at the White House's Easter Egg Roll:

... Don't Worry, Bee Happy. Juliet Eilperin of the Washington Post: "The pint-sized guests Monday might not have listened to him, but the president’s National Pollinator Initiative will forge ahead. Last June Obama launched an inter-agency task force charged with developing a federal strategy to protect pollinators, which help sustain crops ranging from almonds to blueberries and broccoli, and it should be unveiling a detailed plan in a matter of months."

The Coolest First Lady in the History of the Nation:

Krissah Thompson of the Washington Post: "For her forthcoming book, “The Residence: Inside the Private World of the White House,” Kate Andersen Brower managed to elicit stories from domestic staff who witnessed up close the loneliness of President Nixon as he faced impeachment, the weariness of Hillary Clinton as her husband’s sex scandal exploded and other surprisingly intimate moments involving the first families. Most of these stories — from Nancy Reagan’s tirade over three broken tchotchkes to the tearful hug Jackie and Bobby Kennedy shared with a favorite doorman in an elevator — are attributed to staffers by name, not wrapped in the cloud of anonymous sourcing that usually cloaks reporting about the inner workings of the White House." ...

Here's What $75MM Buys:

... Orange County Register: "President Richard Nixon's Western White House, an oceanfront San Clemente estate owned by retired Allergan CEO Gavin S. Herbert, is for sale at $75 million. Herbert, 83, is selling the 5.45-acre estate after owning the property for 35 years." Includes slideshow.

New York: "Here's a spoiler for people who haven't finished House of Cards season three yet: Frank Underwood doesn't die, because Netflix [April 2] announced that it had renewed Cards for a fourth season."

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The Commentariat -- Dec. 13, 2012

I'm getting complaints that I'm boring & all the commenters are interesting. Couldn't agree more. -- Constant Weader

Hans Nichols of Bloomberg News: "Former Republican Senator Chuck Hagel has emerged as the leading candidate to become Obama's next Secretary of Defense and may be nominated as soon as this month, according to two people familiar with the matter. Hagel, who served as an enlisted Army infantryman in Vietnam, has passed the vetting process at the White House Counsel's office, said one of the people. The former Nebraska senator has told associates that he is awaiting final word from the president, said the other person."

Greg Sargent: "The Senate Democratic leadership is announcing today that [Elizabeth] Warren will be given a seat on the Senate Banking Committee."

Another Big Win for Mitt. Angie Holan of PolitiFact: "Lie of the Year: the Romney campaign's ad on Jeeps made in China.... PolitiFact has selected Romney's claim that Barack Obama 'sold Chrysler to Italians who are going to build Jeeps in China' at the cost of American jobs as the 2012 Lie of the Year.... And they stood by the claim, even as the media and the public expressed collective outrage against something so obviously false."

Fabulous News out of Washington: Joe Lieberman gave his final Senate speech Wednesday. Something about compromise and bipartisanship. But the fabulous news is Joe Lieberman gave his final Senate speech Wednesday.

Felicia Sonmez & David Fahrenthold of the Washington Post: "The conservative groups that supported Michigan's new 'right to work' law -- winning a stunning victory over unions, even in the heart of American labor -- vowed Wednesday to replicate that success elsewhere. But the search for the next Michigan could be difficult. National unions, caught flat-footed in the Wolverine State, pledged to offer fierce opposition wherever the idea crops up next.... In addition, few Republican governors who could enact such legislation seem eager to bring the fight to their states." CW: I think the writers are underestimating the persuasive powers of the Koch boys. ...

... E. J. Dionne: "... the way Gov. Rick Snyder (R) and the Republican Michigan Legislature rushed right-to-work through a lame-duck session was insidious.... Snyder had avoided taking a stand on right-to-work until just last week, when he miraculously discovered that it would be a first-rate economic development measure. The law was included as part of an appropriations bill to make it much harder for voters to challenge it in a referendum. The political motivation here is obvious. Union families are the premier cross-racial Democratic constituency. Nationwide, President Obama carried union households by 18 points but non-union households by only one point -- a 'union gap' of 17 points. In Michigan, the union gap was an astonishing 32 points: Obama won union households 66 percent to 33 percent, the rest of the electorate by 50 percent to 49 percent."

Charlie Savage of the New York Times: "Harold Koh, the top lawyer in the State Department, will step down early next year and return to teaching at Yale Law School, a department official said on Wednesday. His impending departure is part of a major overhaul in the Obama administration's national security legal policy team, including the announcement last week that the Pentagon general counsel, Jeh C. Johnson, is resigning."

Sheryl Gay Stolberg of the New York Times: "There will be no big star-studded concert on the National Mall to celebrate President Obama's second inauguration next month, several of his inaugural planners said Wednesday.... Mr. Obama, mindful of the difficult economy, has set a more low-key tone for his 2013 inaugural festivities."

Linda Greenhouse makes a compelling argument that the DOMA & Prop 8 cases the Supremes have agreed to hear are not about gay marriage but about standing; i.e., whether the parties in the cases have the capacity to bring suit as outlined in Article III, Section 2, of the Constitution. CW: so my little prediction that the Supremes will "do the right thing" may be moot; they may do nothing, thus leaving the status quo, well, status quo.

Cliff Notes

Greg Sargent: "I spoke this morning to an official familiar with the fiscal cliff talks. He tells me that ever since Republicans rejected the first White House fiscal offer, White House negotiators have been asking Republicans to detail both the spending cuts they want and the loopholes and deductions they would close to raise revenues while avoiding a hike in tax rates for the rich. According to the official, Republicans continue to refuse to answer.... How on earth can there be any progress under these circumstances?"

The "Logic" of Raising the Medicare Eligibility Age. Paul Krugman: "When I look at this whole discussion I keep thinking of a line from 'Yes, Minister': 'We must do something. This is something. Therefore we must do it.' And there's a real possibility that this kind of logic will lead to huge suffering for hundreds of thousands of older Americans.... It would inflict vast hardship on the most vulnerable, while saving the federal government remarkably little money, and would actually raise overall health spending, basically because private insurers have much higher administrative costs and much less bargaining power than Medicare...."

Boehner Forgets Who Won the Election Again. Dana Bash of CNN: "One of the reasons Tuesday night's conversation between President Barack Obama and John Boehner did not go well was because the GOP House speaker sent the White House a fiscal cliff proposal calling for a permanent extension of Bush-era tax cuts for all Americans, including for incomes in the top 2%, a Democratic source said Wednesday." ...

... The Republican War on Christmas. Robert Schoeder: "With the fiscal cliff unresolved and the clock ticking, House Speaker John Boehner is telling his fellow Republicans not to make holiday-season plans, reports said." The House Majority Leader, Eric Cantor (R-Va.) said basically the same thing.

I'm getting increasingly concerned that one of the reasons the Speaker is deciding to, I think, string out these discussions is that he wants to wait til January 3 when the election for Speaker takes place. -- Chris Van Hollen (D-Maryland)

Jonathan Chait: "When the only cuts on the table would inflict real harm on people with modest incomes and save small amounts of money, that is a sign that there's just not much money to save.... The spending cuts aren't there because they can't be found." And Republicans don't seem to understand this.

Oh, there are ways to cut back. Laura Gottesediener of AlterNet list seven "absurd ways the military wastes taxpayer dollars.... There are 963 generals and admirals in the U.S. armed forces....

... each top commander has his own C-40 jet, complete with beds on board. Many have chefs who deserve their own four-star restaurants. The generals' personal staff include drivers, security guards, secretaries, and people to shine their shoes and iron their uniforms. When traveling, they can be accompanied by police motorcades that stretch for blocks. When entertaining, string quartets are available at a snap of the fingers. A New York Times analysis showed that simply the staff provided to top generals and admirals can top $1 million -- per general. That's not even including their own salaries -- which are relatively modest due to congressional legislation -- and the free housing, which has been described as 'palatial.'

Sarah Kliff of the Washington Post : Monday, the White House backed off its 2011 proposal to allow $17.9BB in Medicaid cuts. Kliff explains how the Supremes accidentally saved Medicaid from cuts.

Local News

Max Read of Gawker: "Steven Crowder, the frequent Fox News contributor and YouTube comedia[n]..., insert[ed] himself in the middle of a tense argument between protestors and staffers of Americans for Prosperity, the anti-union group funded by libertarian billionaires Charles and David Koch. And then he got punched in the face." Crowder was whining about it on Fox "News" yesterday, but Read thinks he should take his licks for getting "between billionaire-funded know-nothing ideologues and people whose livelihoods and stability are being threatened by the insatiable greed of the super-rich and the blind extremism of their wooden-headed political allies. In exchange, liberals will buy you a band-aid ... re-iterate that Punching Is Bad." ...

Punching is bad. -- Constant Weader ...

... Not surprisingly, it appears Crowder faked what actually happened, editing the video to make events that happened hours apart appear to be sequential.

AND Adam Sandler puts in a performance at the 12-12-12 Concert for Sandy Relief:

News Ledes

New York Times: "Susan E. Rice, the Obama administration's ambassador to the United Nations, has withdrawn her name from consideration for secretary of state, in the face of relentless opposition from Republicans in Congress over her role in the aftermath of the deadly attack on the American Mission in Benghazi, Libya."

New York Times: "The Swiss financial giant UBS is close to finalizing a settlement with authorities over the manipulation of interest rates, a deal that is expected to include at least $1 billion in fines. UBS is in discussions with United States, British and Swiss authorities, and an announcement could come as early as Monday...."

New York Times: "N. Joseph Woodland, who six decades ago drew a set of lines in the sand and in the process conceived the modern bar code, died on Sunday at his home in Edgewater, N.J. He was 91." Read the obit.

New York Times: "European leaders gathering [in Brussels, Belgium] on Thursday for their year-end summit meeting hailed an agreement to place euro zone banks under a single supervisor, calling it a concrete measure to maintain the viability of the currency as well as a step in laying the groundwork for a broader economic union."

New York Times: "Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov, Russia's top envoy for Syria, said on Thursday that President Bashar al-Assad's government was losing control of the country and might be defeated by rebel forces."

Reuters: "North Korea's next step after rattling the world by putting a satellite into orbit for the first time will likely be a nuclear test, the third conducted by the reclusive and unpredictable state. A nuclear test would be the logical follow-up to Wednesday's successful rocket launch, analysts said."

AP: "A nurse duped by a hoax call from Australian DJs about the pregnant Duchess of Cambridge was found hanging in her room and left three notes, a coroner's inquest was told Thursday."


The Commentariat -- Dec. 12, 2012

I'm closing down the Comments section for a couple of days. Today I had to delete a comment, which I hate to do, on top of which I yelled at the wrong commenter on an unrelated matter. BTW, we have two people using the same handle -- MAG -- one of whom comments regularly & one of who comments occasionally. If Occasional MAG could come up with a new name, I wouldn't have to check who's who. I'm confused enough. With any luck, I'll get myself combobulated by the weekend & start running a Comments section again. -- Constant Weader

"Too Big to Indict." James Downie of the Washington Post: "At first glance, the British bank HSBC's agreement to pay $1.9 billion to settle a money-laundering probe seems like very good news. It is the largest penalty ever imposed on a bank; the U.S. government accused HSBC of transferring funds 'through the U.S. from Mexican drug cartels and on behalf of nations such as Iran that are under international sanctions.... Already, 'too big to fail' allows the biggest banks to act with impunity; if the idea expands to include 'too big to indict,' banks would lose an effective restraint against engaging in illegal activity.... The emergence of 'too big to indict' is another warning to the White House and Congress that it's absolutely necessary to end 'too big to fail.'" ...

... New York Times Editors: "Clearly, the government has bought into the notion that too big to fail is too big to jail.... Once criminal sanctions are considered off limits, penalties and forfeitures become just another cost of doing business, a risk factor to consider on the road to profits.... If banks operating at the center of the global economy cannot be held fully accountable, the solution is to reduce their size by breaking them up and restricting their activities -- not shield them and their leaders from prosecution for illegal activities."

Geoff Mulvihill of the AP: "Speaking at Princeton University, [Supreme Court Justice Antonin] Scalia was asked by a gay student why he equates laws banning sodomy with those barring bestiality and murder. 'I don't think it's necessary, but I think it's effective,' Scalia said, adding that legislative bodies can ban what they believe to be immoral." CW: of course Scalia should recuse himself from hearing the Prop 8 & DOMA cases. And of course he won't. ...

... BUT WAIT. It gets worse. Didn't think that was possible? Josh Israel of Think Progress: Scalia "also dismissed the importance of the Bill of Rights as an 'afterthought,' compared to the U.S. Constitution's overall structure, observing, 'Every tinhorned dictator in the world has a bill of rights.'" CW: that's right -- we have a sitting U.S. Supreme Court Justice who doesn't think the Bill of Rights is important. Scalia should be institutionalized; he should not be sitting in judgment of anything as consequential as the quality of his own poop. Roberts should tell him to retire. Now. ...

... ** Dana Milbank: "The Supreme Court's announcement Friday that it will take up gay marriage is a chance for the justices ... to overrule the medieval views of Antonin Scalia.... Chief Justice John Roberts ... surely doesn't want to be responsible for a modern-day Plessy v. Ferguson that stands against the fast-emerging majority in support of gay rights."

CW: yesterday morning I read a remarkable piece of crap by Jim VandeHei & Mike Allen of Politico, two of the dullest tacks on the board, in which they interviewed such economic innovators as Erskine Bowles, Jeb Bush & Jamie Dimon who explained how to get the economy booming again, mostly by slashing Social Security, Medicare & regulations. Needless to say, I didn't link it. Fortunately, I wasn't the only person who gagged:

... Jonathan Chait of New York takes the anthropological approach: "What makes the consensus so astonishing, and even nauseating, is the degree to which those who share it show no awareness of their own insularity.... All seem to believe implicitly that what is good for the CEO class is by definition what's good for America.... Politico's editors take toward the consensus. They have on their hands the most ripe material for a scathing exposé of a chummy, self-interested business-political elite.... It should be preserved for generations as the early-21st-century cri de coeur of an incestuous, self-satisfied economic and political elite." ...

... Charles Pierce: "This piece is not about the current economic stalemate. It's about two Beltway foofs showing the red on their asses by demonstrating that they can get important people on the phone. This isn't economics. This isn't even really journalism. This is a brief in support of oligarchy. It is public financial star-fking." ...

... Paul Krugman: "What I find remarkable about this piece is that after everything that has happened these past five years or so, Jim VandeHei and Mike Allen still take it for granted that these people actually know what they're talking about.... The real lesson is that those insiders are not only self-dealing, but profoundly ignorant and wrong-headed."

Brendan Nyhan of the Columbia Journalism Review on fact-checking. Also read the comments.

Not All Attorneys General Sit on Their Hands, Mr. Holder. Nicholas Confessore of the New York Times: "The New York attorney general issued a far-reaching draft regulation on Tuesday that would force broad public disclosure of millions of dollars in loosely regulated spending on elections and ballot measures in New York. The proposal by the attorney general, Eric T. Schneiderman, takes direct aim at tax-exempt organizations that spend heavily on political advertising but have not been required to reveal the donors behind their spending."

** Josh Kraushaar of the National Journal: "Over the next two years, the AFL-CIO will be focusing its involvement on six states, all with high-profile gubernatorial races: Florida, Michigan, Nevada, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin. The stakes are high: If labor wins, there will be serious second-guessing over Republicans' aggressive agenda and the results could cost the GOP its base of working-class whites. But if Republicans emerge from 2014 with their governors largely intact, they'll enter 2016 with a rallying cry, unafraid to call for deep-seated economic reforms as a major element of the party's future platform." ...

... ** Harold Meyerson of the Washington Post: "an exhaustive study by economist Lonnie K. Stevans of Hofstra University found that states that have enacted such laws reported no increase in business start-ups or rates of employment. Wages and personal income are lower in those states than in those without such laws, Stevans concluded, though proprietors' incomes are higher. In short, right-to-work laws simply redistribute income from workers to owners." CW: Plus, here's a number I didn't know: "Roughly 100 million of the nation's 143 million employed workers have jobs that can't be shipped abroad...." In other words, Tom Friedman's globalization excuse doesn't work on 2/3rds of American jobs.

Maureen Dowd pretty much just recaps Greg Miller's piece on the film "Zero Dark Thirty," linked yesterday, but she adds a bit to the story of what led to the capture of Osama bin Laden, highlighting the controversy over whether or not torture played a significant part in the real story.

All of the sudden the NYT is covering the Bradley Manning case. Here's Charlie Savage: "Supervisors at the Marines' Quantico brig imprisoned Pfc. Bradley Manning, who is accused of leaking hundreds of thousands of secret government documents to WikiLeaks, in unduly harsh and restrictive conditions over nearly nine months for 'no legitimate nonpunitive reason,' his lawyer argued on Tuesday at the conclusion of a pretrial hearing."

Dylan Byers of Politico: "The Presidential Inaugural Committee has announced that President Obama's official swearing-in will be open to the press, allaying the concerns of the White House press corps that had feared restricted access."

Cliff Notes

Nelson Schwartz & Jonathan Weisman of the New York Times: "A broad swath of the nation's leading chief executives dropped its opposition to tax increases on the wealthiest Americans on Tuesday, while the White House quietly pressed Wall Street titans for their support as well."

Ed O'Keefe of the Washington Post: "House Speaker John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) has sent a counter-offer to President Obama to avert the upcoming tax increases and spending cuts known as the 'fiscal cliff,' but his office declined to share details of the offer."

The Obamas with Barbara Walters. White House photo.Devin Dwyer of ABC News: "'I'm pretty confident that Republicans would not hold middle class taxes hostage to trying to protect tax cuts for high-income individuals,' [President] Obama said today in an exclusive interview with ABC News' Barbara Walters.... Raising the Medicare eligibility age from 65 to 67 is "something that's been floated," Obama said, not dismissing the idea outright. 'When you look at the evidence, it's not clear that it actually saves a lot of money,' he said." CW: Yeah, how about costs money. (The full interview will air on "20/20" Friday.) ...

     ... Update: here's a clip in which the President discusses the U.S.'s recognition of the Syrian opposition AND the "fiscal cliff" negotiations:

     ... Igor Volsky of Think Progress: "... the idea — which has been floated by Republicans demanding 'painful' cuts in the Medicare program — would only save the federal government a net $5.7 billion, while shifting an added $11.4 billion in health care spending to states, employers, and individuals." ...

     ... For a really full explanation, see this Center for American Progess report.

Jackie Calmes & Jonathan Weisman of the New York Times: "While neither provided details, one person familiar with the White House proposal said Mr. Obama had reduced his call for $1.6 trillion in additional revenues from the wealthy over the first 10 years to $1.4 trillion, still $600 billion higher than the Republicans' position. And another said the president also proposed that the two sides commit to working on overhauling the corporate tax code next year." ...

... Lori Montgomery & Paul Kane of the Washington Post: "... Republican sources close to the talks said [Boehner's] offer made no concessions on the central issue of higher tax rates for the wealthy."

AND the President Is Making Concessions -- Why? Mike Dorning of Bloomberg News: "President Barack Obama won the public argument over taxes so decisively that almost half of Republicans now say he has an election mandate to raise rates on the rich. Majorities of about 2-to-1 also read the election results as an endorsement of Obama's pledge to protect Social Security and Medicare benefits, according to a Bloomberg National Poll of 1,000 adults conducted Dec. 7-10."

At least Obama gets this right. Ezra Klein: "The Obama administration is utterly steadfast on this point: They will not suffer a repeat of 2011, when they conducted negotiations over whether the United States should default. If Republicans go over the cliff and try to open up talks for raising the debt ceiling, the White House will not hold a meeting, they will not return a phone call, they will not look at the e-mails. They will move to an entirely public strategy, rallying voters and the business community against the GOP's repeated brinksmanship."

Greg Sargent: "John Boehner went on the House floor [Tuesday] to reiterate his demand that the White House propose detailed spending cuts to prove its seriousness about reaching a fiscal cliff deal.... Dems have already agreed to well over $1 trillion in spending cuts in 2011 -- cuts Boehner himself said were significant at the time. By contrast, Republicans have not agreed to a penny in new rates.... As for the demand that the White House go first in detailing its spending cuts, this is an almost laughably transparent ruse.... Boehner today accused the White House of 'slow walking' the country towards the edge of the cliff. If anything, Boehner is the one who is doing that -- out of necessity."

Brian Beutler of TPM: Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) "acknowledged Tuesday that President Obama has the upper hand in the debate about income tax rates on high income Americans. And he became the highest ranking GOP official to assert that Republicans will have to wait until next year, when the debt limit needs to be raised, to effectively push for cuts to social programs.... [McConnell's remarks] suggest that Republicans have resigned themselves to the fact that income tax rates will increase over their objections next year -- and that Obama and House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) are unlikely to cut a broader deal that would include raising the debt limit before January." Thanks to Jeanne B. for the link. ...

... ** Greg Sargent: "McConnell and Boehner believe the threat of damage to the economy is a perfectly legitimate lever to use to get what the GOP wants.... This is not business as usual, in which each side is demanding concessions from the other. In this case, one side is asking for concessions in exchange for not hurting the whole country, and spinning any eventual agreement not to do that as a concession on their part. It's a remarkable maneuver, when you think about it." CW: it is a depraved maneuver, when I think about it. They're saying that if they can't hurt Americans one way -- by cutting their social safety net programs -- then they'll hurt us another way -- by tanking the economy & imposing all the hard times that go with that.

Local News

Union workers protesting right-to-work legislation at the state capitol Tuesday, December 11. Getty image.

NEW. Richard Wolffe, Carl Bernstein, even Joe Scarborough can't believe it when Gov. Rick Snyder (R-Koch) brazenly claims that right-to-work legislation is pro-union. Via Igor Volsky of Think Progress. Thanks to Jeanne B. for the link:

Kathleen Gray & Paul Egan of the Detroit Free Press: "Michigan became the 24th right-to-work state in the blink of an eye Tuesday after the state House rushed through legislation and Gov. Rick Snyder immediately signed it, capping a day of charged emotions, huge crowds and mostly peaceful demonstrations." ...

... Here's one for you Oracles of the Apocalypse. Ashley Killough of CNN: "Jimmy Hoffa, president of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, said Tuesday he expects Michigan unions and lawmakers to break out into 'civil war' after the state legislature passed right-to-work bills that would weaken unions' power."

Republican War on Women

Tara Culp-Ressler of Think Progress: "At a press conference on Tuesday organized by the anti-abortion group Texas Right to Life, Gov. Rick Perry (R-TX) reaffirmed that his ultimate legislative objective is to restrict all women’s access to abortion services. ...

... Perry's plan to eliminate abortion rights is direclty related to this:

News Ledes

New York Times: "The Federal Reserve said Wednesday it planned to hold short-term interest rates near zero so long as the unemployment rate remains above 6.5 percent, reinforcing its commitment to improve labor market conditions. The Fed also said that it would continue in the new year its monthly purchases of $85 billion in Treasury bonds and mortgage-backed securities, the second prong of its effort to accelerate economic growth by reducing borrowing costs." ...

... AP: "The U.S. economy is already being hurt by the 'fiscal cliff' standoff in Washington, Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke said Wednesday. But Bernanke said the Fed believes the crisis will be resolved without significant long-term damage."

NBC News: "Anti-virus software founder John McAfee returned to the United States on Wednesday after he was released from detention in Guatemala."

AP: "Sen. Robert Menendez employed as an unpaid intern in his Senate office an illegal immigrant who was a registered sex offender, now under arrest by immigration authorities.... The Homeland Security Department instructed federal agents not to arrest him until after Election Day, a U.S. official involved in the case told the AP. A Homeland Security spokesman ... said Wednesday that it was 'categorically false' that the department delayed the arrest of Luis Abrahan Sanchez Zavaleta, 18, until after the election."

Reuters: "Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez is in delicate condition after his latest surgery for cancer, the government said on Wednesday in a sombre assessment that may indicate an end to his 14-year leadership of the South American OPEC nation."

New York Times: "Syrian forces loyal to President Bashar al-Assad have fired Scud missiles at rebel fighters in recent days, Obama administration officials said on Wednesday. The move represents a significant escalation in the fighting, which has already killed more than 40,000 civilians in a nearly two-year-old conflict that has threatened to destabilize the Middle East, and suggests increased desperation on the part of the Assad government."

New York Times: "Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta made an unannounced visit to Afghanistan on Wednesday to meet with commanders and discuss proposals for future troop levels that he said would be presented for President Obama's consideration over the next few weeks."

Al Jazeera: "Egypt's opposition has called for citizens to vote 'no' in a referendum due this week on a draft constitution for the country, but has set conditions that, if they are not met, would result in a boycott of the poll. The National Salvation Front (NSF) alliance of opposition parties set several conditions for it to accept the poll, including that the referendum be held over a single day. The Front also demanded that there be full judicial supervision of the process, and that international and local NGOs be allowed to monitor it."

... Reuters: "Efforts to resolve Egypt's rapidly worsening political crisis suffered a blow on Wednesday when the army abruptly postponed 'unity' talks that the opposition had minutes earlier said they would attend."

Al Jazeera: "Israel will withhold tax revenues from the Palestinian administration until at least March, in response to the Palestinians' bid for statehood at the UN, Israel's foreign minister says. Under current peace deals, Israel collects about $100 million every month in duties on behalf of the Palestinian Authority (PA) in the occupied West Bank.... Israel says Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas violated previous peace accords by side-stepping stalled negotiations and securing a Palestinian status upgrade in the United Nations last month. The December funds transfer has already been withheld...."

Al Jazeera: "Russia's President Vladimir Putin has warned against foreign meddling in Russian politics and criticised opposition politicians of being in the pay of foreign interests.... Putin, who last year accused the United States of encouraging opposition protests and claimed foreign governments spend money to seek to influence elections, said Russians receiving money from abroad should be barred from politics."

New York Times: "Ravi Shankar, the Indian sitarist and composer whose collaborations with Western classical musicians as well as rock stars helped foster a worldwide appreciation of India's traditional music, died Tuesday in a hospital near his home in Southern California. He was 92."


The Commentariat -- Dec. 11, 2012

** Frank Bruni: "In a country that supposedly draws a line between church and state, we allow the former to intrude flagrantly on the latter. Religious faith shapes policy debates. It fuels claims of American exceptionalism. And it suffuses arenas in which its place should be carefully measured." CW: which raises the question -- how can a guy like Bruni, who is usually so fatuous, suddenly be so right? I guess the Lord works in mysterious ways.

Local News -- Race to the Bottom

Reuters: "Michigan legislators on Tuesday approved laws that ban mandatory membership in public and private sector unions, dealing a stunning blow to organized labor in the home of the U.S. auto industry. Republican Governor Rick Snyder was poised to sign the bills into law within days."

The Detroit Free Press & Lansing State Journal have live coverage of events surrounding the anticipated passage & signing of a state right-to-work bill.

John Flesher & Jeff Karoub of the AP: "Authorities in Lansing were bracing for an onslaught of demonstrators Tuesday at the Michigan Capitol as the Legislature reconvenes for what could be final votes on bills. Hundreds of people gathered early Tuesday to get inside."

Chad Livengood, et al., of the Detroit News: "Democrats also were upset by a memo that was sent to state workers explaining Snyder's position on right to work and urging safety precautions during protests at the Capitol. The memo ... was sent to thousands of state employees just as Snyder and Republican legislative leaders last Thursday announced their support for the legislation.... The memo plugged the benefits of right to work and warned state employees, some of whom are unionized, to keep their cellphones charged, avoid walking alone and follow other safety practices. Ray Holman, legislative liaison for UAW Local 6000, which represents 17,000 state employees objected state-owned equipment was used to send what he called a political message. 'It talked about the virtues of the right-to-work legislation, and the undercurrent is that union people are going to be engaging in criminal activities,' he said."

Michael O'Brien of NBC News: U.S. Rep. Sander "Levin [D-Mich.] said Democrats want Republicans to change their proposal to allow for voters to repeal the law through a ballot initiative, as voters did in Ohio. The Michigan law is coupled with an appropriations bill that would exempt it from a popular vote challenge.... Supporters of organized labor ... believe they would be able to use a citizens initiative under Michigan law to eventually challenge the right-to-work law. Under such a scenario..., they could force a vote to undo the law in 2014." ...

... Levin has an op-ed in the Free Press, in which he notes that Gov. Snyder has no idea how unions work: "The governor has said that under current law Michigan workers 'have to join a union and pay dues' and that if they choose not to they 'can lose their jobs.' In fact, for many decades federal and state laws have made it clear that no one is required to join a union or to pay dues. And no one can lose his or her job for refusing to do so. Workers pay dues if they join the union, but if they choose not to, the most that can be required of them ... is that they pay an 'agency fee' for their share of administering the contract."

** Detroit Free Press: a "Koch-funded group, the American Legislative Exchange Council [ALEC], which promotes a radical right-wing agenda in states across the country, supplying 'model legislation' to sympathetic lawmakers [appears to be behind the Michigan bill]. Michigan's proposed right-to-work bills mirror the ALEC language practically word-for-word.... [Gov.] Snyder says right-to-work was put on his agenda. But he owes his constituents more detail about who put it there, and how they got his ear."

Rich Yeselson of American Prospect: "If union adversaries can pass a right-to-work law in the home of the once-powerful United Auto Workers, they can pretty much do it anywhere.... 'Right to work' laws, which permit employees working at a unionized workplace to refuse to join the union or to pay the union the cost of representing the worker, are designed to weaken the economic and political power of organized labor and, by extension, wage workers. Full stop. They allow workers to 'free ride' all the benefits of a collective-bargaining agreement ... negotiated by the union without paying any of the union dues their fellow employees pay."

"The Freedom to Freeload Law":

Marcy Wheeler of Emptywheel: "Making MI a RtW state effectively embraces a vision of the state as Indiana or Mississippi or Bangladesh. Making MI a RtW state embraces the idea that we should be dumb labor, not innovative technology, just another entry in the race to be the cheapest, most desperate state."

Ed Kilgore: why have Michigan Republicans jammed through the right-to-work bill in an extraordinary lame duck session? They "were rightfully afraid they wouldn't have the votes in the House had they taken this up as normal legislation in the next session of the legislature."

Here's President Obama talking to workers at Detroit Diesel Monday. He got enthusiastic but not extraordinary applause till he got to this part:

     ... Video of the full speech is beneath today's Ledes.

Charles Pierce: "We have had almost 30 years of Democratic politicians holding unions at arms-length. Between lax environmental regulations, non-existent workplace rules, and sweetheart local corporate tax breaks, the 'race to the bottom' that the president derided has been going on for decades, with no end in sight. This country is a company town now." Thanks to James S. for the link.

Cliff Notes

Frank Newport of Gallup: "Americans continue to give higher approval ratings to the way President Obama is handling the fiscal cliff negotiations than they give to the Democratic leaders or the Republican leaders in Congress." Favorables: Obama: 48 percent; Congressional Democrats 38; Congressional Republicans: 26. Bear in mind that about 75 percent of those polled have no idea what the "fiscal cliff" is all about.

How Gerrymandering Kills Democracy. Jonathan Weisman of the New York Times on why House members won't go along with raising taxes on the rich: they represent -- often gerrymandered -- districts where they won by large margins on a promise of no new taxes. CW: the members Weisman cites claim their constituents don't want them to raise taxes on the rich; I don't know that there's proof they're right. Indeed, Rep. Tom Cole (R-Okla.), an early advocate of passing the middle-class tax cut as a stand-alone bill, says they're wrong:

I don't think voting to cut spending, restrain and reform entitlements and make the Bush tax cuts permanent for 98 percent of the American people is voting against the will of anyone's constituents, including my own.

** The Audacity of Dopes. Everything Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) says is a lie. Steve Benen breaks down Graham's mendacious performance on Fox "News." Watch the video. Best part: Lindsey urges Obama to "man up." Benen writes, "... even looking past all [the lies], the eight words to remember here are these: 'We're not going to raise the debt ceiling.' In other words, according to Lindsey Graham, Republicans intend to hurt Americans on purpose. They will, quite deliberately, hold the global economy and the full faith and credit of the United States hostage -- again -- until the president agrees to take benefits away from senior citizens."

Glenn Kessler of the Washington Post: "... there are four parts to Medicare: Part A (hospital insurance), Part B (medical insurance), Part C (Medicare Advantage -- private plans for parts A and B), and Part D (prescription drug plans). When Graham speaks about the 'imminent bankruptcy' of Medicare, he is only speaking about the Part A trust fund, which would be exhausted by 2024.... Moreover, though the fund would be 'depleted,' it would not be 'bankrupt.' ... Not only did he repeat the error of treating all of Medicare as one entity, but he did the same with Social Security. Moreover, his reference to Medicaid makes little sense, even if one has very expansive definitions of the words 'bankruptcy' and 'imminent.'"

Robert Pear of the New York Times: "The Obama administration gave conditional approval on Monday to health insurance marketplaces being set up by six states led by Democratic governors eager to carry out President Obama's health care overhaul. The six are Colorado, Connecticut, Maryland, Massachusetts, Oregon and Washington. At the same time, the administration rejected pleas from other states that want to carry out a partial expansion of Medicaid, to cover fewer people than the president and Congress originally intended."

What's the Matter with Genachowski? Bill Moyers and Bernie Sanders discuss FCC Chair Julius Genachowski's plan to give a huge gift to Rupert Murdoch:

     ... The transcript is here. P.S. I wrote to Genachowski. If you'd like to write, too, his e-mail address is " Clicking on the link should call up your mail program. Link fixed.

Hoist on Their Own.... Josh Gerstein of Politico: "The high court's decision last week to hear two cases relating to same-sex marriage puts that issue at the center of the national debate. And it does so at an exceedingly awkward time for Republicans, many of whom are trying to downplay or moderate their party's views on social issues to chart a path back to electoral success. In June, the House of Representatives told the Supreme Court that the constitutionality of the Defense of Marriage Act 'is an issue of great national importance' that urgently requires the justices' attention. The 1996 law denies federal benefits to same-sex married couples. But when the court agreed on Friday to hear one of the DOMA cases early next year, the Republican leadership had nothing to say about it."

Greg Sargent: "... sources tell me the legal team representing the plaintiffs in the Proposition 8 case -- Ted Olson, David Boise, and Ted Boutrous -- plan to lobby the administration to publicly declare that the right to gay marriage is protected by the constitution, and to file a legal brief supporting their argument to that effect."

Desmond Butler of the AP: "After years of battling each other on trade issues, U.S. and European officials are contemplating a dramatic change in direction: joining together in what could be the world's largest free trade pact in an attempt to boost their struggling economies. Discussions are in the most preliminary of stages and there would be significant obstacles to overcome, including sharp differences on agriculture, food safety and climate change legislation. Still, top EU and U.S. officials have said they want to see it happen. And America's main labor group, often the biggest opponent of U.S. trade pacts, says it wouldn't stand in the way."

The other day I ran a video of President Obama's visit with a Virginia family, & I mentioned he did all the talking. Turns out they got to speak, too. Pretty sweet:

AND Mitt Romney is a winner after all! AND the first runner-up! (Okay, he's already the first runner-up in that other contest known as the presidential race. So this is just icing on the cake someone left out in the rain.) Mother Jones: Romney made "the most notable quote of the year, according to the editor of the Yale Book of Quotations." Read the linked article for the full Top Ten. Romney's winning remark:

There are 47 percent of the people who will vote for the president no matter what...who are dependent upon government, who believe that they are victims. ...These are people who pay no income tax. ...and so my job is not to worry about those people. I'll never convince them that they should take personal responsibility and care for their lives.

     And his runner-up entry:

We took a concerted effort to go out and find women who had backgrounds that could be qualified to become members of our cabinet (in Massachusetts). I went to a number of women's groups and said, 'Can you help us find folks?' and they brought us whole binders full of women.

Right Wing World

We Have No Idea Where We Get Half Our Money. David Corn of Mother Jones: Both Dick Armey, the recently department chair of the tea party funder FreedomWorks, and Matt Kibbe, its president, claim they have no idea of the identities of the two big donors who gave them $12 million, or slightly more than half of their annual income. So they're a front group that doesn't know who they're fronting for? Uh-huh.

Katrina vanden Heuvel in the Washington Post: "The Republicans' unreconstructed paranoia about an organization dedicated to global cooperation isn't new.... No, now it's just been mainstreamed in the GOP's circulatory system, another example of the party's increasingly delusional, and ossified, worldview.... It's mean, it's mental and, frankly, it's a menace."

Right Wing World, where facts are left-wing propaganda. Paul Krugman on Mary Matalin.

News Ledes

New York Times: "President Obama said Tuesday that the United States would formally recognize a coalition of Syrian opposition groups as that country's legitimate representative, in an attempt to intensify the pressure on President Bashar al-Assad to give up his nearly two-year bloody struggle to stay in power."

New York Times: "North Korea defied the likelihood of more sanctions by the United Nations Security Council to launch a rocket on Wednesday, demonstrating that the government of its new leader, Kim Jong-un, was pressing ahead to master the technology needed to deliver a nuclear warhead on intercontinental ballistic missiles."

New York Times: "... three months after the assault that killed Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens and three other Americans, the investigation into the attacks has been hobbled by the reluctance of the Libyan authorities to move against Islamist extremist suspects who belong to powerful militias.... While the F.B.I. has identified several suspects, none have [sic.] been arrested and some have fled Benghazi."

New York Times: "Fourth- and eighth-grade students in the United States continue to lag behind students in several East Asian countries and some European nations in math and science, although American fourth graders are closer to the top performers in reading, according to test results released on Tuesday."

Reuters: "Former South African President Nelson Mandela, who is 94 and has been in hospital since Saturday for tests, has suffered a recurrence of a lung infection but is responding to treatment, the government said on Tuesday."


The Commentariat -- Dec. 10, 2012

The Sunday Funnies

Jake Sherman of Politico: "New York Times economics columnist Paul Krugman seems to be testing the patience of a couple of his fellow pundits on ABC's 'This Week.' Conservative commentator George Will and former White House aide Mary Matalin both directed pointed remarks at Krugman Sunday that broke with the good-natured banter common among the guests on Sunday political talk shows." CW: I happened to be in the kitchen while my husband had this segment on; Matalin & Will once again proved they are the Village Vicious Idiots. You can watch the performances here (if you're willing to sit through several minutes of ads). The segment begins at about 14:45 min. in. ...

... Pam Spaulding of Pam's Houseblend writes a great post of Matelin's & Will's sorta not anti-gay remarks emanating from the same show. She throws in a bonus remark about Ann Coulter.

AND Lawrence O'Donnell takes on the Newt on "Press the Meat." Igor Volsky of Think Progress reports. With video.

NEW. Charles Pierce has a lovely rundown of what-all you missed by doing something useful with your Sunday morning. Thanks to MAG for the link.

NEW. Driftglass fills in the parts Pierce missed.

Cliff Notes

Jake Sherman & Carrie Brown of Politico: "President Barack Obama and House Speaker John Boehner met at the White House Sunday in an attempt to break the logjam on the fiscal cliff. It was their first face-to-face meeting in 23 days." The New York Times story, by Brian Knowlton & Jackie Calmes, is here.

Sean Sullivan of the Washington Post: "Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) said Sunday that he's 'beginning to believe' thatfalling in line with President Obama's call to raise taxes on the wealthiest Americans, then shifting the focus to reforming entitlements 'is the best route for us to take' on the 'fiscal cliff.'"

Joan Walsh has a terrific post on the stupidity of raising the eligibility age for Medicare. CW: I'm getting damned sick of the increasing acceptable idea that Obama has to cave on something like this because House Republicans need some "face-saving" measure so they can say they won. Why in hell is it more important to appease a few prima donnas than it is to guarantee more affordable health care to millions of older Americans? What happened to Obama's campaign line about "fundamental fairness"? Oh. I guess it was just a campaign line.

Peter Schroeder & Bernie Becker of The Hill: "The White House has the power to temporarily protect taxpayers from middle-class tax hikes even as upper income rates rise if Congress does nothing and all of the Bush-era tax rates expire in January. Experts and lawmakers alike agree that Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner has the power to adjust how much is withheld from paychecks for tax purposes -- for all taxpayers or just for some."

** Paul Krugman: "Increasingly, [corporate] profits have been rising at the expense of workers in general, including workers with the skills that were supposed to lead to success in today's economy.... As best as I can tell, there are two plausible explanations, both of which could be true to some extent. One is that technology has taken a turn that places labor at a disadvantage; the other is that we're looking at the effects of a sharp increase in monopoly power."

** Frank Rich: "What's really shocking about the Petraeus affair is not Petraeus's affair but the fact that once again, we were taken in by a secular plaster saint who turns out to bear only a faint resemblance to the image purveyed by the man himself and the mass media that abetted his self-glorification."

Helene Cooper of the New York Times: "Almost two decades after the Clinton administration failed to intervene in the genocide in Rwanda, the United States is coming under harsh criticism for not moving forcefully in another African crisis..., this time in Rwanda's neighbor, the Democratic Republic of Congo.... Critics ... who include officials of human rights organizations and United Nations diplomats ... of the Obama administration's Africa policy have focused on the role of Susan E. Rice ... in the administration’s failure to take action against the country they see as a major cause of the Congolese crisis, Rwanda.... Aides to Ms. Rice acknowledge that she is close to [Rwandan President Paul] Kagame and that Mr. Kagame's government was her client when she worked at Intellibridge, a strategic analysis firm in Washington." ...

... AND speaking of President Clinton, Richard Socarides, who worked in the Clinton administration, has a good, short post in the New Yorker on what the Supreme Court's rulings on the DOMA & Prop 8 cases could mean to the future of gay marriage. His post is a reminder for those extolling the virtues of Bill Clinton that Clinton was not a leader on this issue.

Jason Zengerle of New York magazine: "... a month after the election, Obama's campaign team has managed to cast a 2008-like hue on their 2012 victory. The secret of their successful spin: Instead of talking about how their guy won a second term by methodically defining -- and demonizing -- his buffoon of an opponent, they’re gushing about the ingenuity of their apps and algorithms."

Jeff Toobin of the New Yorker: "Unless and until the federal government takes over the business of running our elections -- which will, in all likelihood, never happen -- the process of voting will remain the shambles we saw on November 6, 2012."

James Allworth in the Harvard Business Review on how political corruption stifles innovation -- by privileging established companies and technologies over new ones. CW: It's worth noting that there's another side to the story. There was no greater or more invasive monopoly in the U.S. than AT&FuckingT, but it also was half-owner of Bell Labs, a citadel of innovation that produced 7 Nobel Prizes. Of course if the Justice Department hadn't broken up AT&T, we'd probably still be phoning each other on black rotary dials & paying AT&T a per-minute fee to use the government-developed Internets. Thanks to Dave S. for the link.

Edward Wong of the New York Times: "In a strong signal of support for greater market-oriented economic policies, Xi Jinping, the new head of the Communist Party, made a visit over the weekend to the special economic zone of Shenzhen in south China, which has stood as a symbol of the nation's embrace of a state-led form of capitalism since its growth over the last three decades from a fishing enclave to an industrial metropolis."

Local News

Paul Egan of the Detroit Free Press: "Large numbers of Michigan State Police officers were around the Capitol building early this morning as Lansing braced for a day of protests related to controversial right-to-work legislation working its way through the state Legislature. Today's protests are a precursor to much larger ones planned for Tuesday, when thousands of union activists are expected to converge at the Capitol and supporters of right-to-work legislation have also promised a strong presence there. Union members took civil disobedience training in Detroit on Saturday to prepare for the protests." ...

... Amanda Terkel of the Huffington Post: "The Obama administration told labor leaders that the president will also be weighing in on the right-to-work fight in his speech [to be delivered today at the Detroit Daimler Truck diesel plant], according to union officials who spoke with The Huffington Post." ...

... Greg Sargent: "I'm told that virtually the entire Democratic Congressional delegation in Michigan is set to privately meet with [Michigan Gov. Rick] Snyder today in an effort to persuade him to reconsider the initiative and to find a way out of the impasse.... The lawmakers ... will try to persuade Snyder that proceeding with the anti-union initiative will badly damage the state and that there is a middle-ground way out of the situation...."

Right Wing World

Jonathan Chait on "The Psychology of Defeat": how the leaders of Right Wing World -- especially Charles Krautheimer are handling their pain.

News Ledes

President Obama speaking in Detroit, Michigan:

Washington Post: "Treasury announced on Monday that it is completing its exit of American International Group, the insurance behemoth that nearly imploded four years ago, almost dragging down the entire financial system with it. It plans to sell about 234 million shares, raising about $8 billion and leaving Treasury with a $5 billion profit on its investment. The Federal Reserve, which also invested in the firm, has already unloaded virtually all its holdings, for a profit of $18 billion."

Bloomberg News: "HSBC Holdings Plc will pay at least $1.9 billion to settle U.S. probes of money laundering allegations involving Europe's largest bank..., making it the largest such accord ever. The bank, whose top executives were accused of lax oversight by a U.S. Senate subcommittee in July, has been the target of investigations run by the U.S. Department of Justice, the Treasury Department's Office of Foreign Asset Controls, the Federal Reserve, the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency and the Manhattan District Attorney."

New York Times: "The political crisis over Egypt's draft constitution hardened on both sides on Sunday, as President Mohamed Morsi prepared to deploy the army to safeguard balloting in a planned referendum on the new charter and his opponents called for more protests and a boycott to undermine the vote." ...

     ... Update: "Islamist supporters of President Mohamed Morsi captured, detained and beat dozens of his political opponents last week, holding them for hours with their hands bound on the pavement outside the presidential palace while pressuring them to confess that they had accepted money to use violence in protests against him.

Guardian: "Russian and American diplomats have met in Geneva to discuss the future of Syria with the UN envoy, Lakhdar Brahimi, according to the Russian foreign minister, Sergey Lavrov, who insisted the meeting did not imply Moscow had softened in its support for the Syrian leader, Bashar al-Assad. ...

... Al Jazeera: "Syrian rebels have captured parts of a large army base in the country's north, just west of the city of Aleppo, activists say."

AP: "Mexico's music world mourned Jenni Rivera, the U.S.-born singer presumed killed in a plane crash whose soulful voice and openness about her personal troubles had made her a Mexican-American superstar. Authorities have not confirmed her death, but Rivera's relatives in the U.S. say they have few doubts that she was on the Learjet 25 that disintegrated on impact Sunday in rugged territory in Nuevo Leon state in northern Mexico."

AP: "South African former President Nelson Mandela's stay in hospital for unspecified medical tests has stretched into a third day. On Monday there was no new word on his condition. Government officials have said the 94-year-old anti-apartheid icon is 'comfortable' and receiving medical care that is 'consistent with his age.'"